As noted in Bob Sutor’s blog, on other anti-Open XML blogs, and on various comments to previous posts of my own, a question has come up as to what is going on at the National standards body in Portugal. The main point of contention at the moment is about the number of participants in the technical committee and who those participants are. I made some inquiries and here is what I have found out:

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The Portuguese national standards body convened Technical Committee 173 for “Document Description Language” on June 26 for its first meeting (8 members). The Microsoft representative was voted to be the chair of the TC.

Based on the TC’s own decision to expand to 20 members, a public invitation to join the TC started June 26. Acceptance by the National Body (not the TC) was on a first-come-first-served basis. On July 13th, the National Body closed the admittance of new members to the TC. They made this determination based upon three factors.

1) Broad national representation – the TC has 2 software associations, 4 public institutions, 1 public agency, 1 city hall, 1 academic individual expert, and 11 private IT companies representing small, medium, and large businesses.

2) The hosting site, Insituto de Informática, had logistical limitations that were factored into the decision.

3) The National Body determined that 20 was a reasonable number for the dimensions of the TC, and that once membership had been filled, any changes to membership is possible through the swapping of entities as long as the maximum number remains 20.

During the meeting on July 16th, a vote was held to determine if the TC should expand membership beyond 20. The resulting vote determined to have the TC remain at 20 members.

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So, as with all standards work, all issues may be raised and/or re-raised for consideration by the TC. My understanding is that there are ongoing discussions about the size of the group. IBM and others are not currently part of the TC and that concern has been raised within the TC. The NB as well as the TC are both focused on making sure they are operating precisely in respect to the rules of the process. From what I am hearing, the process is completely above board and being handled professionally with oversight from the NB. IBM and others are desirous of expanding the membership, and that issue will continue to be pressed by them I am sure. The TC has another meeting this week, so there will be more discussion on this as things progress.

There is no question that all over the world the competing interests in the Open XML standardization process are going to use all tactics available to them within the rules. Microsoft and its partners (particularly those who have bet their businesses on Open XML), continue to advocate that it is best to enable our customers to choose the technology that best meets the needs of their business.

Make no mistake; all parties are looking at the full picture to find strategies that will result in the outcome they desire. Provided - of course - that they do so within the context of the rules that apply to the process, this is exactly what one should expect to happen. It is going to be a very interesting next few months.